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More than $100,000 demanded in fines after factory fire tragedy

Author : J GALE

08 February 2011

Two US companies are facing large fines after alleged breaches of safety law which came to light in a flash fire at a manufacturer of car parts.

The state of Indiana issued the notices after investigations revealed both parties reportedly committing breaches of the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Act.

It followed a serious fire on 5 July at Guardian Automotive Trim in Evansville, Indiana, which led to one worker being burned so severely she required skin grafts. Another worker was also hospitalised.

According to a report in the Evansville Courier and Press, Matthew Sorenson and Teresa Torres were both cleaning a painting booth at the factory with acetone, a chemical that emits flammable vapours. However, a ventilation system meant to reduce the vapours was not switched on and the fixed lights in the booth were allegedly broken. A portable halogen lamp was used to illuminate the area instead.

Placed in an unstable position, the lamp either toppled over or was knocked over accidentally, the investigation by the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA) found. This, coupled with the intense heat emitted by the lamp, lead to a serious flash fire that injured both workers.

Now both Guardian Automotive Trim, which is the operating name for SRG Global Inc, and cleaning company Team Industrial Services Inc, headquartered in Markham, Ontario, have been held accountable.

In a Notification of Penalty order issued by IOSHA on 1 October 2010, Team Industrial Services was ordered to pay a total of $84,150 under the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Act.

Areas of alleged non compliance included the failure to select and have each employee use protective equipment, as well as requirements that ventilation systems must be switched on while working with highly flammable and hazardous materials. Respiratory hazards were not identified by the employer and neither was training or information given as to the chemicals being handled. The portable lamp was not the type approved for use alongside acetone or other flammable substances.

SRG Global was sent a separate order for breaches that came to a total of $22,500. Also categorised as ‘serious’ offences, the alleged breaches included lack of training in how to use the paint exhaust system and the permanent lighting system to reduce risk. There was no education system in place for firefighting either, including lessons on how to use a fire extinguisher, said IOSHA. The body also found the company responsible for allowing three extension cords to be plugged, or ‘daisy chained’ together to provide power for the lamps.

Both companies have petitioned for a review of the findings from the investigation and subsequent fines.

A spokesperson for SRG Global said: "The company is in active and ongoing discussions and unable to comment on the process at this time."

Info4fire received no response to an invitation to comment from Team Industrial Services.

A spokesman from the Indiana Department of Labor told Info4fire that the date for a review had not yet been set.

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